USF heads into must-win games

For the USF women’s soccer team to qualify for the Big East tournament, success in this weekend’s road trip to New York will be crucial.

USF currently sits in seventh place in the American Division with six points, two spots behind fifth-place Connecticut, which has 11 points. Only the top five teams in each of the Big East’s two divisions qualify for the conference tournament, which begins Oct. 27 at on-campus sites before moving to Morgantown, W.Va., for the semifinal and final rounds.

The Bulls (5-6-4, 1-4-3) face conference opponent Syracuse on Friday at 7 p.m., and will continue their trip to New York against St. John’s on Sunday at 1 p.m.

USF looks to rebound from last week’s performance, which extended the Bulls’ losing streak to three games. Though the team has struggled, USF coach Denise Schilte-Brown said there is enough talent and motivation to turn the season around.

“Right now, we’re in a must-win situation,” she said. “I think if the girls take a close look at the talent, how good we are and how good we can be, then I think there’s a lot to play for.”

With only three games remaining in the regular season, the Bulls must return to winning ways to qualify for the postseason. A win over Syracuse (6-5-3, 5-3-0) could provide the spark the Bulls need. The Orange’s four-game winning streak was snapped last week with a 5-1 blowout loss to conference-leading West Virginia.

USF will then challenge St. John’s which, along with Syracuse, has only lost once at home all season. That loss was dealt by Georgetown, the same team that gave Syracuse its only home loss. The Red Storm (8-6-1, 4-4-0) are led by top goal scorer, senior forward Jen Leaverton, who has seven goals on the season.

USF could be without its leading scorer, sophomore Demi Stokes, who suffered a leg injury last week.

“It’s going to be touch and go for Friday, and we’re going to continue to rehab her,” Schilte-Brown said. “We’re still optimistic that she can give us some minutes this weekend.”

If the Bulls can’t pick up these crucial points, they could be mathematically eliminated before their final game of the season against Marquette.

“The girls have been doing a great job of picking themselves back up,” Schilte-Brown said. “Now, we’re just going to get on the road and become road warriors this weekend.”